Monday, December 22, 2014

Conversations with Educators – Part 5 - Teachers, Students and Possibilities

A balanced education and beautiful little children

A Teacher- Student Conversation about Education is Vital. It cannot be one way.

This post is about some notes and insights from an educational conference in Lucknow in 2013,where I tried to initiate this conversation between students and teachers.

A talk I particularly enjoyed at the conference, was delivered by a colleague and educator from Baroda, Gujarat who I got to spend the whole first day with. She spoke about the need for balance in what we seek. She believes education should empower students and should look at combining insight and intelligence to achieve human growth. The students are really empowered when they think beyond me and mine and find a way to use their skills to serve the world.

Hello, you beautiful little beings
In the evening after the participants freshened up, a small program was organized for us at the City Montessori School, Gomti Nagar campus. We reach there and the program starts. Then this huge group of preschoolers come on stage and give us an extraordinary one hour performance. They sing, dance, speak and the message of their performance was to share with us, why we must worry less and be happy. EveryLittle child in that group was a little gem.
The teachers then took us around the school and showed us the pre-school classrooms there. It was very interesting observing  these classrooms. When children are little, the classrooms are so engaging and exciting, but it gets duller as we grow up. I wonder why that happens. The classrooms I entered that day were filled with toys, colored furniture, children’s artworks on the wall and more. They also had a teacher just for story – telling. The Montessori influence was beautiful. I needed to understand it better.

One Teacher in a country of a Billion

On the bus ride back to the guest house, I had an interesting conversation with an educator and banking professional, with a very inspirational life story. The person had come from a farmers village and would walk thirteen kilometers to his school without any footwear. He came to Mumbai and worked in the mornings and joined a college in the evening. He would also learn from a friend that was a clerk in the evenings. He bought his first pair of footwear when he went to college. He then joined a teachers training course and told me about a lecturer there that had seventeen degrees. Finally he joined a cooperative bank and looks after certain banches of the bank. Today the bank has a 1600 crore turnover. But this individual continues to teach at a local district school in his locality.

Can we ever customize Education to each student's needs in India?

In this journey across India , I have heard so many such stories of struggle. I always worry, about whether a model like Denis Littky’s Passion School will work in a country like India. Will students ever be able to go to a school, where learning is the primary objective. The country is so diverse and there are people that not only come from different cultural backgrounds but also from very different economic backgrounds.

But then I have to push down these doubts, because some extra-ordinary stories emerged of young people that have proved Maslow’s theory of needs wrong. They have jumped the physiological level and have directly gotten to a stage of performing at a self realized state.

Every student deserves the best education in the world and every student must be given an equal chance to get to their potential. It is not fair that certain students are given the benefits of an educational model that sustains natural curiosity and exploration in the child, while the vast majority are not even aware of it. It should not matter where you come over from or what your economic background is like. With teachers like my colleague from Baroda and the Teacher from Mumbai, I am sure this will happen sooner rather than later. 

With the principal of a college in Mumbai

It is not about change anymore. It is about a revolution and it must start now.

Let us Learn Together
Tweet @AbhishekShetty_

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